Remembering the Revolution of 1821: the war against tyranny continues

Vrasidas Karalis explores tyranny, nomarchy and destiny in Greece, historically and today.

This year we celebrate the Greek Independence day having in mind the extremely precarious position of the country—socially, politically and financially.

From within such serious crisis we turn back in history not because we want to empower ourselves with false optimism and vainglorious self-adulation; no, such feelings would have shown the complete distortion of the meaning of the Greek revolution.

What happened then offered hope and perspective, strength and conviction.

The weak and the enslaved became aware of their own power and their own importance. They took their destiny in their own hands.

In that strange moment the simple and illiterate peasants became agents of change. Despite its intellectual origins, the Revolution was a grass roots movement—it was a people’s reaction to continuous neglect and indifference.

Many people would claim that the target of the revolution were the Ottomans or the Turks—in reality the main enemy for the people who organised the revolution were not the Ottomans or the Muslims but political tyranny.

It was declared by all those who worked for the preparation of the revolution; by Reghas Pheraios, Adamantions Koraes and the by that anonymous writer of the Greek Nomarchy.

Yes the revolution was the fulfilment of the Greek Enlightenment—the much maligned today Enlightenment, the secular movement to re-invent Greek life, the political movement to re-establish a society of free individuals.

Tyranny, political oppression and social injustice were the main targets of the Revolution. Later after the establishment of the Greek state, when the necessity for an ‘official version’ emerged, nationality and religion superseded the real content and the real message of the revolution.

The revolutionaries wanted a republic and were forced to accept monarchy; they asked for freedom of expression and were imprisoned by strict censorship laws; they demanded redistribution of land and most of them died in utter poverty.

The Revolution failed but the demand for freedom and justice still remains; despite the fact that most of the people who fought for freedom were imprisoned and some were punished as traitors, the appeal of freedom as hope for social change and renewal remains to this day.

What went wrong? Some fifteen years before 1821 a radical little book was published in Italy; it was called Greek Nomarchy that is discourse on freedom composed and published through his own expenses for the benefit of Greeks by Anonymous the Greek (1806).

It is probably one of the most important political documents ever written in Greek since the time of Thucydides. It contained the programmatic declaration of the revolution and envisaged a new society based on the abolition of all privileges belonging to the political establishment and to the clergy.

It declared the authority of the law which should apply to everyone who is an active citizen, the law that treats people equally and offers opportunities to everyone.

Finally it declared that people who have been addicted or brainwashed to being slaves are manipulated and controlled by the elites that govern their country, who use coercion or distraction tactics in order to turn the attention of people elsewhere.

I think that this booklet showed before the establishment of the Greek state the social pathology that the ruling elite of Greece was going to enforce and impose.

After independence, the ruling casts of the country created a society in perpetual crisis, in constant fear of others, in perpetual panic about its identity and in continuous struggle to prove itself a worthy descendant of the ancients.

So every time that there are problems the threat of an external enemy is raised who either questions our Greekness or threatens our ideal self and its relation with Pericles and Alexander!

I thought that by now the clever trick should have been exposed and understood! But no! Greek officials, well-payed journalists and confused intellectuals accuse everybody else except themselves and their government for the position of the country internationally. They accuse others forgetting that first Greek citizens do not trust the Greek state and see as the main enemy of their welfare and security.

We live in an age of a profound bankruptcy; the anti-dictatorship elite proved not simply incompetent for governing but immensely dangerous for the very existence of Greek people.

Thanks to them we have become the laughing stock of the world, we don’t take ourselves seriously anymore living in a never ending fear and in a state of panic.

In order to celebrate the Revolution, read the Greek Nomarchy, the first Greek constitution and the official declaration of independence sent to the whole world by the brave people who took arms against tyranny! You will understand who the tyrants are and how tyranny distorts the mind of people.

Vrasidas Karalis Associate Professor and Head of Modern Greek Studies at the University of Sydney.